Catching the political convention coverage this year is a lot different for me than it was in earlier cycles--I remember the first conventions I watched as a kid being the ones in 1988, listening to my parents trash the GOP speakers and be less than thrilled with Mike Dukakis ("Dukakis" is Greek for "meh"). In those days, and going through the mid-2000s, I'd spend several hours each day of the respective convention watching the coverage on TV after school (or work) and going into the late hours to catch the speeches.
These days, I can follow the political coverage on the Internet and view the speeches online, turning what was once six or so hours each night into about an hour in the morning. My takeaways from the GOP convention this week:
1) A lot of rising Republicans are auditioning for 2016. Surely they remember that Barack Obama made a name for himself at the otherwise disastrous 2004 Democratic Convention with a well-received speech, and parlayed a very thin political resume into winning his party's nomination four years later. Politicians completely unknown four years ago--New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio--have set the groundwork for what could be strong candidacies four years from now if Romney loses this November. Of course, these things can be fleeting--if Romney wins, it'll take more for Republicans to remember these folks in 2020 when the nomination opens up again.
2) I liked Condoleeza Rice's speech generally--particularly the reference to growing up in Jim Crow Alabama and being able to overcome that--and I've always found her likable despite being the pointwoman for many questionable Bush-era policies. But I notice her speech patterns tend to sound shaky--almost a lacking of confidence. If she gets the political bug later and runs for something, she may want to invest in a speech coach.
3) I can see why Marco Rubio gets so much buzz--he had in my opinion the best speech of the week. Even if you disagree with his politics, he's got a winning way of keeping with central themes and big ideas.
4) Clint Eastwood left me just feeling really sad for him. There's really not much more I can say about his argument with the empty chair.
5) The convention security was right to eject the morons who tossed peanuts at the black CNN camerawoman. Among the GOP's many problems is not "too many people think we like black folks". I don't know who those jerks were but that's shameful and mean behavior anywhere.
6) Paul Ryan's activity since his pick for VP--as well as his acceptance speech--has made it clear that the GOP doesn't have another Sarah Palin problem this year. He's articulate, has a good command of policy, and can convey his ideas in a reasonable manner. While the Obama team can--and will--still assault the GOP ticket on Ryan's very conservative budget stances, he'll be a much harder target to nail down and is clearly willing to strike back. The good news is this offers a chance for some substantive debate on how to fix our budget this fall.
7) Romney's speech was pretty good--a lot of pundits complain that it's light on specifics, but I see that as a plus. It's incredibly boring to hear a laundry list of policies that don't have a prayer of getting passed anyway--and I think an acceptance speech should be about bigger themes anyway. This speech was simple, hit key points, and re-introduces the candidate to the people. The debates this fall will be a chance to get the details under scrutiny.
8) The Texas delegation makes themselves easy to spot with all the cowboy hats. If I were the head of the NY delegation I'd have my team wear hipster fedoras. We'd be all ironic, like we didn't care about any conventions.
We'll see how the public reacts and whether there's any convention bump in the polls--I suspect there won't be one, or it'll be small--we're at a point where the middle these days is shrinking and the election this year is shaping up to be another "base mobilizer" like 2004 was. On to the Democratic Convention!